Behold: the fanciest Fat Tuesday pączki in Chicago

Illustration for article titled Behold: the fanciest Fat Tuesday pączki in Chicago
Photo: NurPhoto / Contributor (Getty Images)

Pączki (pronounced “pownch-key”) are round filled Polish donuts, and they’re a huge tradition here in Chicago. We’ve got a large Polish population, and come Fat Tuesday, everyone, and I mean everyone, gets excited for Pączki Day. The lines out the bakery doors are epic—though I’m not sure what that’s going to look like this year.


Pączki can be filled with fruit or cream fillings, and the dough is rich with eggs and fat in order to fulfill the tradition of using up all the eggs and lard before Lent begins. They’re great, and any reason to eat a donut is a good one.

Eater Chicago has news of a unique cheffy version of one that we’ll be seeing soon.

Most years, Marz Community Brewing on the south side of Chicago holds a Pączki fest. This will not be happening this year. Instead, Marz will be releasing a Pączki double milk stout and, in partnership with Rare Tea Cellar, a store that specializes in ultra high-end ingredients, one fancy pączki. The pączki, developed by chefs Randi Howry and Kelly Ijichi, whose restaurant stall Mom’s was shuttered due to the pandemic, is filled with a vanilla custard with acacia honey and truffle bits, and it’s topped with shaved winter truffle and edible gold leaf. They’ll be available for pickup as a bundle with the Pączki stout at a reasonable price of $40.

I know there are people rolling their eyes at the fancy additions, but with this terrible cold snap and pandemic, people are pretty cooped up, and chefs still need a reason to flex with some fun and fancy ingredients (trust me, chefs are feeling ultra cooped up). And Chicago on Fat Tuesday is not a place or time to go small. So I’m down.

Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.



I have heard “punch-key” and “poonch-key” but never “pownch-key”? And I hang with Poles who happily refer to themselves by what I learned was an ethnic slur growing up.

Time to turn in my Chicago card: Paczki, whether fresh from the bakery or, um, less than fresh from Jewel, are, um, not that good. They differ from a jelly doughnut in being larger and tasting of stale oil that might not have reached the proper temperature. I am sure I will have one next week, and already am regretting it.